ACRES finds frogs cramped in cages & wild-caught turtles in Chinatown wet market

ACRES and SPCA appeals to ban sale of live animals such as turtles & frogs in S'pore.

Sumita Thiagarajan | April 23, 2020, 10:39 AM

Two animal welfare groups, ACRES and SPCA, have made a joint appeal to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to end the sale of live animals, such as frogs, turtles, and eels for consumption.

The two groups are asking for all slaughter to be restricted to slaughterhouses, citing serious concerns of food safety and animal welfare.

Investigations revealed live animals kept in close proximity to seafood sold to public

Anbarasi Boopal, the Deputy Chief Executive at ACRES, told Mothership that investigations were conducted last month and they have identified a couple of concerns regarding risks of public safety.

One of the concerns observed was that the slaughter of live animals was done in close proximity to meat sold to the public.

A video uploaded on YouTube in 2018 shows live bullfrogs kept in cramped conditions, next to fish meat at Chinatown Complex.

photo of fish with frogs Screenshot via settime2588/Youtube

Screenshot via settime2588/Youtube

Following the investigation last month, ACRES' uploaded a video of it today (Apr. 22).

Similar to the conditions captured in the 2018's video, ACRES' video shows bullfrogs were still caged in cramped conditions, placed right next to chopped fish meat on display for sale.

Hygiene issues

Anbarasi told Mothership that she saw vendors handling the live bullfrogs and other seafood also used the same gloves to handle cash transactions with customers.

"This would be a risk to customers who might then exchange this cash with vegetable vendors or cooked food vendors, who are exposed to similar health risks despite not coming into direct contact with live animals or slaughtered meat," she added.

Screenshot via ACRES/Facebook

Animals found with open wounds, which could lead to infections

During the investigations, wild-caught soft-shelled turtles were found with open wounds on their noses, called rostral abrasions, which are caused by constant rubbing against the netting they are contained in.

Such open wounds can easily develop into infections from the water these animals are kept in, which contains their excretions.

Here's a screenshot from the video of investigations by ACRES, where the nose of the soft-shelled turtle shows rostral abrasions:

Screenshot via ACRES/Facebook

Live animals are starved and kept in crowded conditions

ACRES told Mothership that they had been informed by a vendor that all live animals, such as turtles, frogs and fish, were are "on diet" from the moment they arrived at the store.

The animals are kept hungry so that bad odours could be avoided during slaughter, one vendor said in the ACRES video.

Screenshot from ACRES' video.

Screenshot from ACRES' video.

The vendor also revealed that the turtles were wild-caught from Indonesia and not farm-bred animals.

The link between animal welfare and food safety

Anbarasi also explained how animal welfare can impact food safety and public health.

When animals are starved and kept in crowded conditions, it results in stress and suppresses their immune systems.

With compromised immune systems, this allows for animals to contract diseases easily and transmit these diseases to other animals.

Jaipal Gill, Executive Director at SPCA Singapore, had seen the video footage of investigations by ACRES and told Mothership that "the findings were disturbing, especially in view of the current global health crisis".

In an appeal to SFA, SPCA Singapore and ACRES asked for slaughter to be restricted to slaughterhouses regulated by government agencies, and to end selling live animals at public wet markets and food stalls in Singapore.

The slaughter of live turtles, frogs or eels is allowed: SFA

SFA told Mothership that the slaughter of live turtles, frogs or eels is allowed as long as food vendors comply with the requirement under the Environmental Public Health Act.

In their statement to Mothership, they highlighted that those with an impaired immune system or who are pregnant should refrain from slaughtering and processing of live animals and raw meat due to foodborne bacteria, such as Salmonella.

This includes raw meat of poultry, pork, turtle, frog and other meats.

SFA said that to prevent foodborne disease, market stall vendors and customers should practice good food safety and hygiene practices.

Here is SFA's full statement on the issue:

"Market produce stalls selling raw food (including poultry, pork, turtle, frog meat etc.) are required to comply with the requirements under the Environmental Public Health Act, covering food safety/hygiene and personal hygiene. This includes ensuring stall cleanliness and proper storage of food.

SFA allows the slaughter of live turtles/frogs/eels at markets and food stalls as long as market stall vendors comply with the requirements, and will take action against them for any infringements. SFA’s regular inspections have not detected any infringements. Members of the public can report non-compliant market stall vendors to SFA via our online feedback form (

Foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella can be found in raw meat (including poultry, pork, turtle, frog meat etc.) as well as live turtles/frogs/eels, and can be transmitted to people through direct contact with the live animals or raw meat. Market stall vendors who are pregnant or have an impaired immune system function should refrain from all slaughtering and processing activities.

To prevent foodborne illnesses, both market stall vendors and patrons should observe good food safety and hygiene practices, e.g. washing hands with soap and water before and after handling raw meat, thorough cooking which helps to kill harmful bacteria in food."

You can watch the full investigation video by ACRES here.

Top screenshots via ACRES/Facebook